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Present Perfect Simple vs Present Perfect Continuous - Rules and exercises for intermediate level

Written by
Friday, 04 September 2009
Example of present perfect simple vs present perfect continuous: Mike has been cutting the grass. He's tired and dirty. This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license

A comparison between the present perfect simple and the present perfect continuous with a clear explanation of the differences between these two tenses with examples and exercises to help you learn. This online lesson in English grammar is designed for intermediate level students.

Different uses of the present perfect simple and the present perfect continuous

Present Perfect Continuous

We use the present perfect continuous when we are interested in an activity. It does not matter whether the action is finished or not.

e.g. Mike has been cutting the grass. He's tired and dirty.

• She has been studying too much recently. She should take a holiday.

• Where have you been? Have you been playing football?

• The floor is dirty. I 've been painting my room.

• We wish you would arrive! We have been waiting for you for more than an hour!

•Lisa hasn't got any money because she has been shopping.

Present Perfect Simple

We used the present perfect simple if we need to underline that the activity is completed, finished in the past.

e.g. Mike has cut the grass. His garden looks beautiful.

• She has studied too much this afternoon. She is very tired.

• Have you ever played football?

• I've painted my room. The walls are red now.

•She has slept all day, she is very relaxed at the moment.

•They have broken the window, they are really worried now.


Present perfect continuous vs present perfect simple: be careful!

  1. In English sometimes there is little or no difference in meaning between the present perfect continuous and the present perfect simple.

    - How long have you been living here?
    - How long have you lived here?

    In the first example, the verb 'live' expresses an action, in the second one the verb 'live' is seen as a state.
    Both the tenses are correct, because 'live' as an action or 'live' as a state describe the same thing. The action or state started in the past and continues in the present.
  2. Verbs that express a state, for example, love, have, know, like, are never used at the continuous form.

    - They've known each other for a few months.
    - She has had her cat Romeo since her last cat Sooty died.

N.B. Be careful with 'this morning/ this afternoon' etc.
Have you sent the email this morning? (It's still morning).
Did you send the email this morning? (It's afternoon or evening).

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Last modified on Sunday, 05 February 2017 22:26

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